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Chapter 1 - in which the cat gets the cream. The Miller band at the height of their powers playing sixteen lapidary lyrical gems from Porter's equal, Johnny Mercer, recorded when both were flying. And although Mercer's albums with Benny Goodman are better celebrated, Miller's respect for the man he called the best matches Mercer smile for smile and innuendo for innuendo.
His band's witty, stylish charts, cushioned by the insouciant confidence of a nation not at war, slink and slide like cats' tails through the singers' legs to mimic Mercer's phrasing. Yet because this is a movie Show tunes compilation, Rumbas, Standards, Dialogue songs, Vamps and Mercer's own indomitable brand of Sunny Side Of The Street optimism supply plenty of bells and whistles over his immaculate songwriting, yet may grate on ears accustomed to "It's a quarter to three . . ."
And there's no end to the hokey harmonies plundered by generations of jingle writers ever since, or syrupy fills for the dancers to imagine they too are falling for that Old Black Magic on a hilltop overlooking somewhere expensive just to look at. Which is why it matters that it's Mercer. You get sympathetically and musically remastered definitive performances of Skylark, Fools Rush In, And The Angels Sing, a whole pocketbook full of sure fire hold-my-hand pitches and never a phrase that isn't original, inventive and plain old classy. Jeeves, really, when it comes to the words business.
Not forgetting Miller and Mercer's Broadway sequined, but never-the-one you-hear-on-the-radio, barbershop-to-gospel version of Black Magic.If you haven't got these tunes, this era, this sound on a digital carrier already, Miler plays Mercer is a bargain and a belter.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.